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Atlantic City Trip by Ashley Adams

I had heard many dark reports about the state of gambling in Atlantic City – especially with regard to poker.  So I decided to see for myself what was up.
It is dark indeed.
I left Westfield, MA at 2:15 AM Saturday morning and drove straight through, stopping only for some gas and a quick nap.  Thanks to lax speed enforcement I arrived at the Golden Nugget at 7:15 AM, parking right outside the main entrance in what was probably an unmarked no parking zone.
I walked in to check out the poker room.  It was conveniently located right at the top of the escalator I took to the second floor.  It was empty save for a security guard, who informed me that there probably wouldn’t be any action until 11:30.  Not an auspicious beginning to a Saturday poker adventure.
I took the jitney to the boardwalk and get off near the Revel – to see just how empty the huge casino actually would be two weeks before closing.  I had called earlier in the week to see if there were any inexpensive rooms available.  I was told that they were no longer booking any reservations.  I went on line and saw that their site listed every remaining night as sold out.  I wasn’t sure if that was true or just a convenient way of making sure that no one attempted to book a room.
The Revel is a huge casino, a thin black rectangle rising up at the end of the board walk.  I thought it might be garish and tasteless on the inside.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  The entrance is wide, with a glorious view of the ocean.  The escalator delays arrival to the casino itself, but what a grand entrance – with clear site lines in all directions.  The casino floor itself is dark, modern, and from my admittedly unprofessional perspective, cool.
It was also, at 8:15 Saturday morning, completely empty.  I’m not talking about only a few people strolling about.  I’m talking about staff with no customers – thousands of slot machines with no players.  It was eerie – like one of those night-time abandoned carnival scenes in a 50s horror movie. 
I found the buffet, just to check on the morning eating action.  Two people were inside.  The other tables were empty.  There were two overly made up female greeters at the desk in front of the buffet.  They were smiling – painfully fake smiles that said hello to me as I strolled past.  I stopped and chatted.  They were resigned to their fates – unemployment and probably relocation to find jobs.  I asked how they felt about casino gambling in general – telling them I was from Massachusetts and would soon be voting on a referendum to either approve or disapprove casino gambling in my state.  I asked how they would vote.  “Against casinos” said one.  She added that they were only good for a little while and then died.  I thought that 40+ years in Atlantic City was more than a little while, but said nothing.  The other just nodded quietly.  They said that the other casinos that were remaining open wouldn’t be hiring. But they weren’t depressed.
I went to the hotel registration desk.  There were nine people standing behind the counters to wait on customers.  There was one couple with luggage checking out.  I walked briskly to one of the many unoccupied clerks.  I asked if I might get an inexpensive room for the night.  He smiled and said that they had no rooms available – and that they were $499 a night in any case.  This surprised me, and I said so.  Another clerk clicked in to their computer system and said, with a smile, “Well, actually, we are at 99.5% occupancy officially, sir – so we’re booked up solid”.  I smiled and said, “Then I guess you’re not giving rooms away before closing, huh”.  They laughed and told me that they weren’t.  We then chatted about how the casino seemed empty, the gambling floor was literally totally empty, and the restaurant was empty.  “It’s a mystery, huh?” I said.  They smiled and nodded and played along as if they hadn’t a care or question in the world.
I walked next door to the Showboat – also slated to close at the end of August.  It was not empty but was, well, maybe 1% full – I spied two people at the huge banks of slots.  I made it over to the poker room.  There were four players and a dealer seated – a fifth player was stacking his chips and getting up.  I asked with a smile if there was a long waiting list in the 12 table room.  My feeble attempt at humor was missed as the dealer said, “Nah, sit right down sir”.  I did, buying in for $300.
I somehow escaped being stacked on my second hand, as my Queen-8 flush ran into an Ace-high flush (he tried for a check raise on the river – and I didn’t bite).  The dealer was a huge annoyance.  He actually shushed me while he was telling a bad beat story – and I was trying to hurry the game along by asking him where the action was.
I stayed for an hour, losing $20 or so.  The three dealers I saw didn’t mind the closing.  Two were retiring.  The other was a bus driver just waiting for a steady gig.  The players couldn’t have cared less.
I walked over to the Taj.  This was a sad sight.  It was about 10AM when I arrived.  There were four tables going – a $10/20 stud game, two $1/2 no limits, and a low limit hold’em game – this in what was once the biggest room in AC.  I realize that 10AM is not a busy time for a poker room.  Even so, 10AM on Saturday would typically have had 12-15 games going back in the day.  I stopped by later as well – at 1:30.  There were 7 games going (including $20/40 stud and $15/30/45 OE) – with an eight getting started. 
The rest of the casino looked tired, well worn, and nearly empty.
Rumor has it that the Taj will be among the next casinos that will announce they’re closing.  Who knows.  It wouldn’t surprise me.
My session at the Taj wasn’t terrible.  I stayed about an hour.  There were a couple of TAGs but mostly nits, grinding it out.  I was able to win a couple of hands and walked away up $70 in an hour. 
I left and walked up the boardwalk toward Bally’s.  The Bally’s room had closed a while back as had Caesar’s – as they consolidated their action over at the Wild West, now named the WSOP room.  They kicked off the grand opening with a $25K guaranteed tournament.  They ran them for a while but never could cover the guarantee.  So they lowered it to $5 K – where it remains each day at 7PM.  They always cover it.  There’s never an overlay.  There are two other daily tournaments – 11 and 2.  The 11 hardly ever goes.  The 2 is iffy as well.
There were five cash games going when I arrived at a little after 11:30.  The players seemed a cut above the crowd at the Taj.  I had one interesting hand.  I’d be interested in your reaction to it.
I was in the SB.  The five seat called the blind.  The button raised to $12.  I had AdAs.  I raised to $25.  The five seat and the button called.
The flop was 6d9cTc.  I checked.  The five seat checked.  The button bet $25.  I raised to $125, with about $175 behind.  The five seat went all in for about $225.  The button shoved for more than my stack.
Hmm.  One flush or straight or straight-flush draw, the other trips?  Both trips?  A made straight?  Both making a move?  Hmm.
I folded.  I didn’t think I had any choice.
It turned out I was against two sets of trips.
I lived to fight another day in this low limit world.  I got no cards before leaving an hour later but stole a few hands and managed to leave down $5 for my hour session.
I walked to the Trop.  I stopped first at Resorts, which used to have a small room.  The room is now filled with video poker and poker-related slots.  It still has a big neon sign saying “POKER ROOM”.  I resisted the urge to complain that it was false advertising. The boardwalk was fairly crowded by the 12:15 time I arrived at the Trop.  It had only two tables in action – one limit one no limit.   Pretty sad. 
The Hilton is, of course, closed.  So I didn’t have to make the trek all the way down there.  Gosh, that was a beautiful room they had up on the second floor overlooking the ocean.  Wonder what that building will be used for.
I walked back to the Taj, checked out the poker room again, had lunch with my uncle and poker-playing cousin at the Chinese noodle soup spot nearby.  Great beef chow fun.
After lunch I made it back to the marina area.  No time to check out Harrahs and the Borgota.  I’d heard that the Borgata is doing fine – and Harrah’s is also okay.  The GN had only one game in action – a $2-4-6 limit hold’em game.  I played for about an hour with a bunch of retirees who were waiting for the bad beat.  I managed to win $5 for my efforts.  I left at about 4PM, drove home without incident, and arrived home at about 9PM – just in time for a quick dinner, a bourbon nightcap, and a long sleep.
Of the thirteen rooms there used to be, here’s the run down:
Hilton              CASINO CLOSED
Tropicana        OPEN but greatly diminished
Resorts            CLOSED
Sands              CLOSED
Wild West       OPEN
Bally’s             CLOSED
Caesar’s           CLOSED
Taj                   OPEN but greatly diminished
Showboat        CASINO CLOSING AUGUST 31
Revel               CLOSED, CASINO CLOSING AUGUST 31
Harrah’s          OPEN
Borgata           OPEN
Golden N        OPEN but greatly diminished
What will happen when the Meadowlands opens, when NY opens, and if Massachusetts opens?  My guess is that when all the dust settles the Borgata and Harrah’s will keep their poker rooms open and maybe one property on the boardwalk will have poker.

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